New legislation aimed at holding providers more accountable can feel like the final, knockout hit in the growing tension between hospitals and the public. But with the right footwork, healthcare leaders can roll with the punches to go on offense.
The court of public opinion is in session. Have your story ready.
The famous Russian proverb, “trust, but verify,” suggests that all good will should be tempered with a pragmatic dose of skepticism. It seems like a cynical idea, but then again, if everyone is acting in good faith, why should they worry?
As a healthcare provider trusted with the wellbeing of your community, you’re now being asked the same question. “Trust, but verify” is front of mind for healthcare regulators, governing bodies, the media and the public at large. When the House of Representatives passed the Lower Costs, More Transparency Act in December 2023, it was a legislative addition to the growing list of indicators showing that faith in healthcare institutions isn’t a given. And one of the reasons it’s not reached its potential is because healthcare organizations haven’t offered the transparency needed to build it.
Our 2024 Consumer Survey of 1,670 adults nationwide asked whether hospitals are more focused on making money or on caring for patients. Almost 70 percent of responders picked “profits,” Last year, that number was “just” 53 percent.
Bear in mind, however, that those numbers reflect healthcare in general. When it comes to “their hospital,” our survey found strong majorities trust that their hospital is working to fulfill its mission.
Clearly, there’s a bit of a disconnect between national and local perceptions.
So, what, if any, action should hospital leaders do to prevent the broader, industry-facing scrutiny from creeping into your markets?
It goes back to trust, and your priority to strengthen trust with your community. One concrete way is through your attention to the Lower Costs, More Transparency Act.
- Go beyond compliance. Stipulations in the Lower Costs, More Transparency Act requires hospitals to disclose charges via machine-readable reports for at least 300 services. That’s all good for insurers and governing bodies, but what about those for whom the legislation is ostensibly written – patients who want to see those prices, understand and be able to use them to shop for care? This is an opportunity for you to build trust with patients by educating them on your price structures and being as up front as possible about what they are paying for and the rates negotiated with health insurance companies.
- Train your staff. Your caregivers and administrators are the ones who will be fielding direct questions about prices. Equip them with talking points, FAQs and educational resources to inform how they should handle inquiries and disclose information.
- Go on offense. Use legislation such as the Lower Costs, More Transparency Act – which is itself the next step in price transparency started in 2021 – to show how you’re taking steps to improve the patient experience. Coordinate with your healthcare marketing and communications, government relations, legal and revenue cycle teams to create messaging to be used with influential voices in your community. Then have conversations with these individuals to build the case for your organization and how it’s not just fulfilling regulatory requirements but the deeper mission to care for patients.
We’ve entered the age of transparency. Now is the time to decide what that means for your organization — and take more steps to be an even stronger partner to your community. By communicating smartly with the right tools and strategies, you can ensure that the relationship is and stays strong. Let’s get to work.